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Lee votes to keep 'secret holds'

Published January 27, 2011 9:38 pm

Politics • Freshman senator sides with histea party compatriots.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • If a senator wants to block a bill or nomination from coming up for a vote, they will have to do so publicly, under a rule change adopted by the Senate on Thursday.

The move to end "secret holds" passed on a 92-4 vote.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was among the few to oppose the resolution, as were his Tea Party Caucus compatriots Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Jim DeMint, R-S.C.. The other no vote was cast by Nevada GOP Sen. John Ensign.

Lee's office did not respond to requests for comment.

The resolution won't stop senators from placing a hold on a bill, but they will have to own up to the stalling tactic with their name appearing in the congressional record.

For years, senators have used holds to block nominees they dislike or as a bargaining chip in negotiations with fellow senators or the administration.

For the most part, those holds remained anonymous, but not always.

As an example, former Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, disclosed that he temporarily placed holds on some of President Barack Obama's nominees for Interior Department positions after the administration pulled back 77 oil and gas leases in Utah.

On Thursday, the Senate also agreed to make it harder to order the reading of an amendment to block a vote on legislation. Lee and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, were among the 15 Republicans who voted against that rule change, while 81 senators supported it.

These modest changes were meant to make the chamber more efficient and came after a group of freshman Senate Democrats failed in a bid to revamp the filibuster, a common tactic by the minority that requires the majority to get the support of 60 senators to move a bill to a final vote.

mcanham@sltrib.com